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Cyberbullying seminars to help school principals navigate social media minefield


Sharlene King
19 November 2013
How a high school can deal with cyberbullying while understanding its liability and duty of care is the focus of seminar series aimed at Gold Coast and NSW Far North Coast principals this month.

‘Cyberbullying seminar for high school principals’, a breakfast event hosted by the School of Law and Justice, will be held at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus on Monday November 25 and at the Gold Coast campus on Friday November 29.

The seminar will provide state and private high school principals with the legal background on how to deal with the rising threat of cyberbullying. Principals will be updated with information on cyberbullying and the liability of schools and themselves under their duty of care and reporting obligations. The implications for a school’s cyberbullying policy and approaches to regulation will be explored in the context of relevant criminal and other legislation.

The presenter is barrister and Southern Cross University law lecturer Graham Bassett.

Mr Bassett said cyberbullying was a form of bullying or harassment that was carried out through an internet service, such as email, chat room, discussion group, as well as via mobile phones or other electronic devices.

“People become disinhibited in the online world because they think they’re anonymous. Cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent and unless it is nipped in the bud by school authorities when the student does bring it to their attention it generally tends to lead to more traditional forms of bullying. So the two types of bullying get intermingled.”

Most schools have cyberbullying and social media policies in place, whether their own in the case of private schools, or generic ones developed by education departments for state schools.

“But it’s not enough to have the policy. If your school has one, follow it,” said Mr Bassett.

“In cases where schools have been found liable the evidence has shown that the complaint wasn’t taken seriously and nothing was done.

“Schools that have strong bullying and social media policies in place and follow the steps outlined in the policy when a complaint comes from a parent or a student, they are the schools that are proactively ensuring that a duty of care is being followed. If principals have done everything they can to assist the student to try and stop the bullying then they normally wouldn’t be found negligent.”

Prior to becoming a barrister, Mr Bassett was director of information technology at various schools in Sydney. His bar practice includes civil and criminal matters and he is a member of the NSW Bar Association and Queensland Bar Association. Mr Bassett occasionally lectures in cyberlaw, information technology and the law, and intellectual property at Southern Cross University.

To attend the cyberbullying seminar, contact Jane Gilmour in the School of Law and Justice at [email protected] or 02 6620 3800.
Photo: Graham Bassett.